Recently launched programs in Academic Affairs and Student Development
will try to more adequately prepare new CSUN students for the
transition into college and help stave off what have historically been
poor first-year retention rates.
The two most visible programs for first-time freshmen are student
orientation and the new Freshmen Connection program. Both have
incorporated new elements as university officials have actively tried
to make the First Year Experience more dynamic for students.
‘?I hope (new FYE plans) will lead to some concrete results, (such
as) more students staying for their sophomore year,’ said Tom Piernik,
director of Student Development and International Programs.
Many students drop out after their first year, he said.
Close to 76 percent of first-time freshmen at CSUN who started in
2002 came back for a second year. At CSU Fresno, 84 percent came back,
and at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the figure rose to 90 percent.
Additionally, thirty-six percent of students who entered CSUN in
1998 graduated within six years, according to CSU data.
With an increasing CSUN first-year retention rate in mind, the
Freshmen Connection, a new optional pilot program set to launch in Fall
2005, is designed for groups of 20 students ?’#8209;called ‘?freshmen cohorts’
?’#8209;who have similar class schedules.
Various staff, faculty and administrators have been collaborating on
the Freshmen Connection in recent years after experiencing similar
programs at other campuses and seeing the success of the university’s
Summer Bridge program, according to Cheryl Spector, English professor
and director of the freshman seminar program in Undergraduate Studies.
This fall, 240 first-time freshmen will be enrolled in the Freshmen
Connection. There are three classes that are mandatory for students in
the program: University 100 (the freshman seminar), developmental
writing (offered by the Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies,
English and Pan African Studies Departments), and either Psychology 150
or Sociology 150.
The 20-student groups will meet in a larger 120-student group for
either the sociology or psychology class.
‘?The end result is that successful students will earn general
education credit for two of the classes, and will complete the required
developmental writing class that they would’ve had to take (anyway),’
Based on published research, students in the program will return for
subsequent semesters at a higher rate than non-cohort students,
according to Spector.
‘?We all want to keep our admitted freshman, see them become
sophomores, and see them succeed in their chosen majors and graduate
with a degree we can be proud of,’ Spector said.
Spector said the Freshmen Connection program allows incoming
students to learn together while taking the same classes and working as
a community, rather than as isolated individuals who are enrolling with
‘?I think it will work,’ said Angelica Delgado, who was a first-time
freshman political science major at CSUN in Fall 2005. ‘?It will be good
(to have) a bigger variety of people to know and create a good support
Piernik said the FYE is a concept in higher education that allows
universities to give thoughtful focus to what happens to students
during their first year of university life.
Piernik was part of the FYE Committee that was established
approximately three years ago. According to Piernik, the committee
looked at all of the topics that would be most helpful for students
during their first year.
Piernik said part of the FYE mission is to make sure students become
familiar with university resources. By the end of their first year,
students should understand what their academic responsibilities are,
where to get advisement, how to join a club and where to pay their
university fees, he said.
‘?What you have is greater communication (in) encouraging students to
participate in university events,’ Piernik said. ‘?Students are more
aware of how to connect to the university as a result of increased
‘?I think we’re going to have a freshman class this year that is less
isolated and more inclined to use their resources,’ Piernik said.
Hilda Garcia, assistant director for new student programs in Student
Development, heads the student orientation program that first-time
freshmen attend during the summer. Garcia said the orientation is an
opportunity for students to learn what the university has to offer in
terms of student services.
In addition, students can become more familiar with the campus and
have a chance to get to know their peers, she said. During the
orientation process, students also have the ability to meet with
faculty and engage with many heavily involved student leaders.
Additionally, the Matador Mentor Program, launching this year,
allows Student Development to follow students during their first year
at CSUN through e-mail communication after their orientation.
Garcia said the program notifies students about what is happening on
campus, informs them about their deadlines and responsibilities, and
brings them up to speed on what university services are available to
Garcia said an example of the program would be sending out an e-mail
containing library hours during midterms, the Learning Resource Center
location and hours and tips on how to become a successful CSUN student.